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John Rousmaniere

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John Rousmaniere

John Rousmaniere
Born 1944
Louisville, Kentucky
Nationality U.S.
Education St. Paul's School (Concord, N.H.)
Columbia University
Union Theological Seminary
Occupation Author, editor, historian
Known for Sailing, yachting, and historical writing

John Rousmaniere is an American writer, sailor and author of 29 books on sailing, yachting history, New York history, business history, and clubs. An authority on boating safety, he has conducted reviews of boating accidents.

Early life and education

John Pierce Rousmaniere (pronounced "Room-an-ear") is the oldest of the eight children of James Ayer Rousmaniere, of Boston and New York, and of Jessie Broaddus Pierce Rousmaniere, of Louisville and Brownsville, Texas, the daughter of a U.S. Army general. He is a descendant of a French soldier who fought for the American side in the American Revolution, and the Easton family that co-founded Newport, Rhode Island. He spent his early years in Cincinnati, Ohio, and at age 11 moved with his family to Oyster Bay, on Long Island, New York.[1] He is an alumnus of St. Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire (1962); Columbia University (B.S. 1967, M.A. 1968); and Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York (M.Div., 1988).[2]

Professional career

After U.S. Army service, during which he was Assistant Professor of History at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point,[3] Rousmaniere was an editor at Yachting and Natural History magazines before becoming a freelance writer in 1978. He worked out of his homes in Stamford, Conn., where he was a single parent caring for his sons, William and Dana, before moving to Manhattan full-time in 2005.

Rousmaniere writes on a wide range of topics, including New York history, but may be best known for his books on storms at sea, boating safety, yachting history, and sailing instruction. His sailing manual, The Annapolis Book of Seamanship (Simon & Schuster), has gone through three editions since its initial publication in 1983. A fourth, heavily revised and updated edition will be published early in 2014. A video series of the same title is based on the book.[4] Fastnet, Force 10 (W.W. Norton, 1980) is the account of the tragic 1979 Fastnet Race in which he sailed and 15 sailors died. Published in several languages and still in print in 2013, this was the first of his storm books.[5] It was followed in 2002 by After the Storm: True Stories of Disaster and Recovery at Sea, about the causes and consequences of storms at sea as seen through biographies of sailors and seamen, stories of gales and wrecks, and Rousmaniere's own experiences.[6] These concerns had led him to attend Union Theological Seminary, where he earned the Master of Divinity degree in 1988.

Rousmaniere has sailed more than 40,000 miles, including nine Newport Bermuda Races (two in the second-place boat), two Fastnet Races, three transatlantic races or cruises, other long races or cruises, and extensive day racing that included winning championships. His sailing experience, and his writing about the 1979 Fastnet storm, led Rousmaniere to speak at or moderate more than 100 safety at sea, seamanship, or Suddenly Alone seminars under the aegis of the U.S. Sailing Association (US SAILING) and North U (the educational arm of North Sails). He moderated the safety at sea seminars for the 2011 Transpac Race (at Newport Beach, Cal.), the 2011 Marion Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race (at Cambridge, Mass.), and the 2012 Isla Mujeres Race (at New Orleans). He spoke at or moderated safety at sea seminars in 2012 at the U.S. Naval Academy, the Sailing Foundation in Seattle, the Newport Bermuda Race safety weekend, and the Strictly Sail Boat Show in Chicago.[7]

Rousmaniere co-organized the Crew Overboard Rescue Seminar at Sausalito, Cal., in 2005 and wrote its final report recommending rescue equipment and skills.[8] He is the coordinator of the Hanson Rescue Medal Award presented by US SAILING.[9]

In 2011 he served on Independent Review Panels in US Sailing Association inquiries into two fatal sailing accidents, one involving the death of a young sailor in a 420 dinghy at Annapolis, Md., and the other the deaths of two sailors in the Chicago Yacht Club's race to Mackinac Island, on Lake Michigan. Rousmaniere was the sole panelist in the first inquiry, and served on the four-member panel concerning the second. The reports were released at US Sailing's annual meeting on October 29, 2011 and are available on the US Sailing website. In 2012 he conducted a review of an incident in the 2012 Newport Bermuda Race, and wrote the report on tests of sailor retrieval, capsize recovery, and entrapment that were held in California and New York.[10]

Rousmaniere has written a number of history books on a broad range of topics that include the America's Cup, ocean racing, yacht clubs and other clubs, New York history, businesses, yachts, and the history of yachting. He has also written about maritime photography (Sleek and A Picture History of the America's Cup). For many years he was Consulting Editor of The Dolphin Book Club, the maritime division of the Book of the Month Club. His book reviews appear in WoodenBoat, Cruising World, and other publications. He frequently lectures on maritime history and New York history at libraries, historical associations, yacht clubs, and other venues.

His non-boating books include histories of the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell, the Equitable Life Assurance Society, and Piping Rock country club. Rousmaniere’s writings about New York City include a history of settlement houses (his Columbia M.A. thesis).[11] His recent Green Oasis in Brooklyn is an illustrated history of a large, classic 160-year-old cemetery on the Brooklyn-Queens border.[12] He has contributed 40 essays to the 2nd edition (2010) edition of The Encyclopedia of New York City. He is a trustee of The Evergreens Cemetery Preservation Foundation.

Books he has edited include All This and Sailing, Too, the autobiography of the yacht designer Olin J. Stephens II, (Mystic Seaport, 1999);,[13] as well as Dennis Conner's autobiography No Excuse to Lose; The Enduring Great Lakes, on the ecology of the Great Lakes; Desirable and Undesirable Characteristics of Offshore Yachts; and Michael Levitt, Herding Tigers: The North Sails Story (North Sails, 2009).[14]

In television and video, Rousmaniere has written the scripts for several sailing shows produced by Gary Jobson for ESPN and other outlets. In 2002-03 he was the writer for the Outdoor Life Network's coverage of the Louis Vuitton Cup runup to the America's Cup match in Auckland, New Zealand. In 2007 he was a commentator on the America's Cup match at Valencia, Spain, on a Silversea Cruise Line ship. He has been interviewed for historical documentaries and was co-writer of a documentary on the Beatles, The Compleat Beatles.[15]

Rousmaniere was media chair for the 2010 and 2012 Newport Bermuda Races, writing and editing daily coverage of the race for its website,, and the international press. He will fill that role in 2014.

He has written columns on seamanship for Sailing World magazine and the online publication SailNet,

Encyclopedias to which he has contributed (also serving as an editor) include The Oxford Encyclopedia of Maritime History, The Encyclopedia of Yacht Designers, The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, and The Encyclopedia of New York City.[17]

His memberships include the Century Association, Cruising Club of America, New York Yacht Club, Authors Guild, and PEN. He serves on the Bermuda Race Organizing Committee, the Selection Committees of the National Sailing Hall of Fame and the America's Cup Hall of Fame, and the Safety at Sea Committees of the Cruising Cub of America and U.S. Sailing. A member of the U.S. Olympic Yachting Committee from 1977–84, he chaired the 1980 Sailing Olympic Trials.

Besides teaching history at the U.S. Military Academy, Rousmaniere has taught writing at the College of New Rochelle, Union Theological Seminary, and the Davis Polk & Wardwell law firm, where he also wrote the firm's history and brochures.

Rousmaniere lives in Manhattan with his wife, Leah Ruth Robinson Rousmaniere, a development officer, mystery novelist, historian of tea, and the author of the history of the Seamen's Church Institute of New York and New Jersey.

John Rousmaniere may be contacted through Facebook or Linkedin.


In 2010 the Cruising Club of America awarded John Rousmaniere its Richard S. Nye Trophy for meritorious service: “His books have been a source of information and inspiration to sailors around the world. He has also served the sport of sailing as a moderator at Safety at Sea Seminars, as a lecturer, and researcher on man overboard recovery techniques.” [18]

In 2013 the United States Sailing Association (US Sailing) presented John Rousmaniere its Timothea Larr Award, which recognizes “a person whose vision and guidance have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of sailor education in the United States.” The citation highlighted his Annapolis Book of Seamanship and other books, the many safety and seamanship seminars and related events he has moderated or spoken at, and his reviews of boating accidents. [19]






  • 1991 – A Bridge to Dialogue: A Story of Jewish-Christian Relations. New York: Paulist Press. ISBN 0-8091-3284-2.
  • 1995 – The Life and Times of the Equitable. New York: Equitable Companies, Inc. ISBN 0-9648761-2-4.
  • 1997 – The Norton Boater's Log: An Innovative Log, Boat's Data Manual, & Guest Register: With Quick-reference Guides to Safety, Regulations, & Flag Etiquette. Rev. 2nd ed. New York: Norton. ISBN 0-393-31660-2.
  • 1998 – The Illustrated Dictionary of Boating Terms: 2,000 Essential Terms for Sailors & Powerboaters. New York: Norton. ISBN 0-393-04649-4.
  • 1999 – The Annapolis Book of Seamanship. 3rd rev. ed. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-684-85420-1.


  • 2000 – Fastnet, Force 10 (with new introduction). New York: Norton. ISBN 0-393-30865-0.
  • 2001 – The Clubhouse at Sea. New York: New York Yacht Club. OCLC 53334902
  • 2002 – After the Storm: True Stories of Disaster and Recovery at Sea. Camden, Maine: International Marine/McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-137795-6.
  • 2003 – Sleek: Classic Images from the Rosenfeld Collection. Mystic, Conn.: Mystic Seaport. ISBN 0-939510-90-1.
  • 2004 – Sailing at Fishers: A History of the Fishers Island Yacht Club. Mystic, Conn.: Mystic Seaport. ISBN 978-0-939510-93-1.
  • 2006 – A Berth to Bermuda: 100 Years of the World's Classic Ocean Race. Mystic, Conn.: Mystic Seaport and the Cruising Club of America. ISBN 978-0-939511-17-4.
  • 2006 – In a Class by Herself: The Yawl Bolero and the Passion for Craftsmanship. Mystic, Conn.: Mystic Seaport. ISBN 978-0-939511-13-6.
  • 2008 – Green Oasis in Brooklyn: The Evergreens Cemetery, 1849–2008. Kittery Point, Maine: Seapoint Books. ISBN 978-0-9786899-4-0.
  • 2009 – The New York Yacht Club: A History, 1844–2008. Kittery Point, Maine: Seapoint Books. ISBN 978-0-9706442-2-0 and ISBN 978-0-9706442-3-7 (limited edition).
  • 2011 – Piping Rock Club, 1911–2011. Wellington, Florida: Edgeworth Editions (limited edition). ISBN 978-0-9831343-0-5.
  • 2011 – History of the Shelter Island Yacht Club, 1886–2011. Kittery Point, Maine: Seapoint Books (limited edition).
  • 2014 – The Annapolis Book of Seamanship. 4th edition. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • 2014 – The Union League Club, 1863-2013. Kittery Point, Maine: Seapoint Books (limited edition).
  • 2014 – Histories of the Indian Harbor Yacht Club and the Atlantic Class, Kittery Point, Maine: Seapoint Books (limited editions).


John Rousmaniere's articles and other shorter writing include the following:

  • 1974 - Introduction, Alfred F. Loomis, Yachts Under Sail, revised edition (John de Graff, 1974).
  • 1979 - "Two Days of Misery on the Toscana; Sailing Through Storm," New York Times, Aug. 16, 1979.
  • 1985 - "Commodore J.P. Morgan." Nautical Quarterly, #31.
  • 1987 - Introduction, Desirable and Undesirable Characteristics of Offshore Yachts (W.W. Norton, 1987).
  • 1987 - Introduction, Llewellyn Howland, Sou’west and by West of Cape Cod (Yankee Books, 1987).
  • 1989 - "Disaster Leads to Safety on the High Seas," New York Times, Aug. 6, 1989.
  • 1989 - "Looking for the One Shot: An Interview with Stanley Rosenfeld," WoodenBoat #90, 1989.
  • 1996 - Introduction, Tony Farrington, Rescue in the Pacific (International Marine, 1996).
  • 1996 - Introduction, Donald C. Starr, The Schooner Pilgrim's Progress: A Voyage Around the World, 1932-1934 (Peabody Essex Museum, 1996).
  • 2000 - "The America's Cup." American Heritage, Jan. 2000.
  • 2000 - "Back from Bermuda." SailNet.
  • 2000 - "KIRAWAN Redux," WoodenBoat #158.
  • 2001 - "The Yacht AMERICA at 150," WoodenBoat #163.
  • 2001 - "Yacht Racing Through Time: The America's Cup Jubilee," Sailing World, Nov. 2001.
  • 2004 - "An East Coast Rite of Passage: The Newport Bermuda Race," Cruising World, Feb. 2004.
  • 2004 - "Rousmaniere Remembers Fastnet," Cruising World, Aug. 2004.
  • 2004 - "Olin Stephens on Yacht Restoration," WoodenBoat #179.
  • 2004 - "Divine Lines: Sparkman & Stephens 75th Anniversary," Sail, Oct. 2004.
  • 2004 - "Sleek: Classic Rosenfeld," Sailing World, Mar. 2004.
  • 2005 - "America's Cup" and other essays, Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, 2nd edition (Oxford University Press, 2005).
  • 2006 - "Rescue Aids: Overboard Recovery Devices," Practical Sailor, Jan. 2006.
  • 2006 - "The Rediscovery of the Sea," Sea History, Summer 2006.
  • 2006 - "The Nevins Yacht Yard," Maritime Life and Traditions, #31.
  • 2006 - "Carleton Mitchell," Sail, Mar. 2006.
  • 2006 - "Olin J. Stephens," "Bruce Kirby," "Kenneth S.M. Davidson," "George Steers," and five other essays, The Encyclopedia of Yacht Designers (Norton, 2006).
  • 2006 - "The Birth of the Bermuda Race," WoodenBoat #190.
  • 2007 - "Biblical Archetypes," "Yachting," "Cruising Literature," "America's Cup," and five other essays, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Maritime History (Oxford University Press, 2007).
  • 2007 - Introduction, Rob Mundle, Fatal Storm (International Marine, 2007).
  • 2007 - "Rousmaniere on Killer Storms at Sea," Ocean Navigator Online, Mar. 27, 2007.
  • 2007 - "100 Years of Thrashing to the Onion Patch." Newport Bermuda Race website.
  • 2008 - "Formula for Disaster," "Heavy-Air Reminders," Safety at Sea: Official Program of the U.S. Sailing Safety at Sea Seminars.
  • 2008 - "Olin J. Stephens." New York Yacht Club website.
  • 2009 - "Australia II: John Rousmaniere Reflects on that Winged Keel." Sail World.
  • 2009 - "Fastnet 30 Years Later," SailNet.
  • 2010 - Media Team, 2010 Newport-Bermuda Race.[20]
  • 2010 - Sails and Nationality in America's Cup History (Declaration, Supreme Court of the State of New York).
  • 2010 - Official Race Program, 2010 Newport Bermuda Race (editor and writer).
  • 2010 - "Bermuda Race Wrapup" and many other postings. Newport Bermuda Race website.
  • 2010 - Introduction, Benjamin Mendlowitz and Maynard Bray, The Book of Wooden Boats, vol. III (Norton, 2010).
  • 2010 - "Geographical Features," "Cemeteries," "Sailing," "Marine Pollution," "Dylan Thomas," and 30 other essays. The Encyclopedia of New York City, 2nd edition (Yale University Press, 2010).
  • 2010 - " Is Savoring Her New Vitality," Cruising World (December 2010): 46–51.
  • 2011 - "Getting Started in Boats: Crew Overboard", WoodenBoat Nov.-Dec. 2011, #223.
  • 2011 - Foreword, Patrick Goold (ed.), Sailing - Philosophy For Everyone: Catching the Drift of Why We Sail. Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.
  • 2011 - Member, U.S. Sailing Association Independent Review Panels for two fatal sailing accidents: the death of a sailor at Annapolis, MD, in June 2011, and the deaths of two sailors during the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac.[21]
  • 2012 - Editor of race program and head of Media Team, 2012 Newport-Bermuda Race.[22]
  • 2012 - "Tests of Sailor Retrieval, Capsize Recovery, and Entrapment," [23]
  • 2012 - "Freaks or Takeaways: Lessons Learned from Recent Sailing Accidents," Sail (September 2012).
  • 2012 - Review of Newport Bermuda Race incident in which a seasick sailor was taken off a racing boat by a cruise ship.[24]
  • 2013 - "A Seamanship Ethos," Cruising World (October 2013)
  • 2013 - "Their Legends Live,"(schooner Nina)Yachting (October 2013)
  • 2013 - "Sea History in a Brooklyn Cemetery," Sea History (Autumn 2013)

Public speaking

Rousmaniere presents a dozen or more talks on sailing history and safe boating annually.

  • 2011-12 - Moderator or speaker at U.S. Sailing Certified Safety at Sea Seminars in Newport Beach, New Orleans, Chicago, Seattle, Newport, New York, and Annapolis.[25] History talks at the New Bedford (Ma.) Whaling Museum and other venues.
  • 2012-13 - Moderator, book group: the works of Joseph Conrad
  • 2013 - Moderator and main speaker at Marion-Bermuda Cruising Race Safety at Sea Seminar, Boston; at annual meetings of the American Schooner Association and the Junior Sailing Association of Long Island Sound; at safety clinics at Burlington VT, Nyack NY, and Oyster Bay NY Waterfront Center; and other events.
  • 2013-14 - Speaker, New York City Parks Department Program on Cemeteries and Landscape Design, Nov. 14, 2013. Moderator, book group: American writing about the sea and sailing. Speaker, Newport Bermuda Race Safety at Sea Seminar, Newport, RI, Mar. 15, 2014.

Film and videos

  • 1982 – co-writer,The Compleat Beatles. ASIN 6301966376.
  • 1987-88 – host and writer, The Annapolis Book of Seamanship: Volume One: Cruising Under Sail (ISBN 0-924819-00-6) and four subsequent instructional videos in this series on sailing, plus a video on powerboat navigation.
  • 2011 - host, Lifesling Training Video," The Sailing Foundation.
  • 2011 - Report of Annapolis accident review, U.S. Sailing Association Annual Meeting, Oct. 29, 2011.


  • 2005 – Emergencies on Board (Captain's Quick Guides). Camden, Maine: International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press. ISBN 978-0-07-145220-5.
  • 2005 – Heavy Weather Sailing (Captain's Quick Guides). Camden, Maine: International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press. ISBN 978-0-07-145221-2.


External links

  • John Rousmaniere’s Profile.

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